tv [untitled] March 30, 2012 8:30pm-9:00pm PDT
it's been involved in the fisherman's wharf neighborhood for 30 years now. some of the details of the project, we strongly feel that the height and bulk of the building is appropriate. it doesn't stand out, as you see in the renderings and it's not the tallest nor the most massive building on the block. the height allows for a taller ground floor retail space, which is currently being encouraged by the department as well as the draft fisherman's wharf guidelines and also allows for modest nine and eight-foot floors above. the first and second floors we're going to provide comfortable retail space for their bulky bike rental business. and then the back office space will allow them to centralize their administrative operations from a number of other locations from around the city. you've probably seen they have quite a few outlets. the project will greatly reduce the clutter on the beach and hyde street sidewalks. currently bikes are -- they do have a retail outlet at the project site right now and bikes are being moved back and forth on the sidewalk along hyde
street. these two buildings will now be connected internally so that bikes will now be able to move internally off the street. it's also going to allow for garbage and recycling to be put out on hyde street, further opening up the sidewalk on beach street, which is as you all know, heavily walked by tourists. so jeff and elena are in a very unique position due to their existing business and building in the neighborhood, to make this project work at this location. they currently have 100 employees during the summer months and the project will allow them to continue to grow their san francisco-based business. i've got 22 letters in support and 37 merchant signatures and a group of folks to speak in favor of the project tonight. thank you. we urge your support. vice president wu: public comment? >> we will now open this up for public comment. each member of the public has three minutes to address the
commission. >> good evening, commissioners. my name is jeff sears. my wife, elena and i, are the project sponsors and the owners of blazing saddles bike rentals and tours at 2715 hyde and 721 beach street. i grew up on russian hill and attended and graduated from george washington high school. and while i was in school, i worked at fisherman's wharf, and later met my wife elena and we began a cab business there. that business evolved into our bike rental operation and we have been at our hyde street location for over 25 years now. we are open seven days a week, 365 days a year and have grown to be seven locations here in san francisco. we rent over 100,000 bikes per
year to people from san francisco and all over the world and we're promoting a sightseeing activity that is both green and healthy in this environment that we are all lucky to live in. elena and i had the opportunity to buy the 721 beach property in 2010. we have been looking at the property for several years as the rear of the lot abuts our building on hyde street. we saw that this would allow us to expand our business and continue our growth. it will provide us with adequate back office staging space, office space and staging space for the company and give us the opportunity to move back full time to the neighborhood we'd love and have invested in for decades. i was present at the 2008 planning commission hearing on the previous project at 721 beach and i listened to the neighborhood's concerns. our first step in moving forward with this project was to meet with the same planning department staff that worked on
the 2008 project to determine what additional concerns the neighborhood had and what changes we needed to make in order to get this project approved. we lowered the height, reduced the unit count to one, provided a parking space for our dwelling unit, and redesigned the facade in response to neighborhood and planning commission comments and instructions. regarding our neighborhood outreach, we had four large meetings in 2011 with our neighbors and several smaller ones. many neighbors thought our proposal was great and some did not. at the request of the aquater park neighbors association, we complied and asked for a continuance from our february 22 hearing and since have had three meetings with you are neighbors. we have committed years of our lafe live to the neighborhood. i am currently a board member of the fisherman's wharf community district and we have strong interest in maintaining the community for both residents and
visitors alike. we have not been able to satisfy everyone in the neighborhood, but we have put forth an honest and good faith effort. we believe this is a very reasonable project and fits well with the commercial street frontsage and is significantly smaller than the original proposed -- thank you for your support. >> next speaker? >> i'm an architect here in san francisco. i'm not working on the project in any capacity. the existing one-story building on the site amounts to a missing tooth in the heart of a major commercial area in san francisco. i think it's clear that what's proposed is consistent with the scale and fabric of the neighboring buildings on the street. as i understand it, it's also completely consistent with the planning department's zoning regulations. we have planning and zoning codes for a reason. and this project admires to them in creating a modest bilting
that continues the urban scale of the block face. sometimes unique projects require variances. this project does not ask for or need any. the single story building currently occupying the site is the anomaly. it seems to have created a through block water view for a few private dwellings. i think the vitality that the proposed structure brings to the street is a far better outcome for the neighborhood as a whole. certainly better than preserving an unusually short building just to maintain pleasant views for a few. i think the proposed building is well considered, appropriately scaled and it's going to be a great thing for the street. vice president wu: thank you. >> good evening, commissioners. i own several businesses in the neighborhood of the proposed site, 721 beach street. i am in favor of the project.
the structure that is there now is an eyesore. it looks like a tool shed. in this world class neighborhood, we have millions of tourists coming in to visit us and spend time down here, this project will look 10 times better than what it is now. i've been to several of the meetings that the sears have had to outreach with the neighborhood. they've been very sincere and have made changes to help try to get everybody in favor of the project. i think the few that are opposed are just worried about their views and i think it's a shame if we don't move forward with this project to better the neighborhood. thank you. vice president wu: thank you.
>> are there other speakers for this item? >> just in support at this time? >> other speakers. >> ok. >> good afternoon, or good evening, commissioners. my name is scott embleg. i've been working with the neighbors who are very concerned about the scale of this project. these neighbors are reasonable people. this is not a question from their perspective of not developing this site. they're in favor of developing this site. the question is the scale of that development. they just want to see a development that is sensitive to the neighborhood's character and is sensitive to the impact on the people that live and work in the neighborhood. although the developer claims to have been sensitive to those issues, here are the facts. the developer said he knew going into this that the neighbors were concerned about the height
of the project, were concerned about the parking impacts and were concerned about the style of the project and how it fits into the neighborhood. regarding the height, your own staff report says that the prior project that was referenced was 40 feet high at the beach street elevation. this project is 40 feet high. regarding parking, they've played with the way they measure the storage in their commercial space to bring it under the requirement and therefore not require any parking. in other words, they're going to exacerbate a bad parking situation that this business causes on hyde street and makes it virtually impossible for the neighbors who live on hyde street to find a place to park. to my eye, this is not a style that fits in with the character of this neighborhood. this proposal might have been ok if it was a starting point by the developer in order to interact with the neighbors and try to address their concerns, but that is not what happened here. they met with a large group of
neighbors, who you will hear from tonight, and those neighbors expressed major concerns about the height and bulk of the project. not preserving views, not not having a project at all, but just the height and bulk of the project. in response to that, the developer made no changes. zero. that was a year ago. they came back and met with the neighbors again a few months ago and asked the neighbors to prents their own alternative. the the neighbors said they didn't want to redesign the project, but they did give in response a specific proposal alternative, which you see here. it reduces the height at the beach street front that gives light and air to the hyde street folks who are losing the light and air. it gives them still a significant mass that allows them to build the building in the way they need it built. now, the developer said he'd come back after looking at this proposal and working with this architect, but what did he come back with? he came back with a proposal to remove a stairwell and to change the nature of the pitt on top of the project.
he did not address the issues of real concern to the neighbors. the overall height, especially the height on beach street and the impact on the neighbors along hyde street. other people will tell you about the neighborhood's proposal, but the main thing i want to make clear is we're simply -- the neighbors are simply seeking a reasonable accommodation in the bulk of this project so that the neighborhood character can be maintained and so that some light and air can still get to the people of hyde street who have enjoyed that light and air for years. thank you. vice president wu: thank you. so for the public, we ask that if you wish to speak on this item, please line up in the center aisle of the room. >> good evening, commissioners. gloria smith for the neighbors. i'm going to show you a number of depictions of the project as it actually would fit in beach street and in the neighborhood. the neighborhood engaged a consultant who -- to make these depictions.
this shows the existing structure as it exists today along beach street. and i think you've already seen this. this depicts how beach street will look once the new building is built. this is an isolated picture of the project as the applicant is proposing it. as you can see, the applicant, as o'prosed, says it's only 40 feet high. but with an elevator shaft, it would actually be closer to 50 feet. this is actually what's in your packet. i'm not sure what it was that the applicant was talking to you about earlier, but it would be over 49 feet tall. again, this is an aerial view of the way the project would look.
and as it shows here, this is completely out of character with beach street. the architectural style, the bulk, and the height just does not fit within beach street. frankly, it's just too big, too much, and lacking any late neighborhood character whatsoever. and finally, i want to show you the project as it was proposed the you in 2008. this is -- essentially indistinguishable from what you're seeing today. this is the project that you did not grant, that you refused to approve at the time. you asked for the applicant to go back and speak with the neighbors. they have done that, but we have not been able to resolve this matter because the project is essentially the same as it was in 2008, and we ask you to order the applicant to review this and actually bring it down from what you refused to prove back in 2008.
and finally, you have seen this. we think this is a reasonable accommodation. it starts -- it has a 35-foot height in the back, which allows the applicant to realize most of it's commercial project and it allows for a full over two stories in the front and it has a reasonable setback, so it's a stepback that does not completely overwhelm beach street with the bulk that you've seen from the applicant. so we think this is a reasonable accommodation. and this option here would allow for a full rooftop for the applicant. thank you very much. vice president wu: thank you. >> commissioners, hi, i own a property on the same block as the project on northpoint street. i'm against the project. i'm the former president of the aquater park neighbors association. i have a history of working with developers.
working with the city and generally supporting smart growth for our area. as commissioner fong can attest, i helped garner neighborhood support for several issues, including the jefferson street plan. we tried to work with jeff sears and his wife these past few months to find a compromised solution. we wanted to say we're in favor of their design and that hasn't happened. as neighbors we're concerned with light and air for adjacent buildings, true light and air. the east of the development on the shady side. we're also concerned with the monolithic design that will greet tourists as they greet tourists. i'd venture to getz that 0% of tourist -- 90% of the tourists will see this building because of its prominent location. it's underutilized and was vacant for many years. but what jeff proposes is just too big and will create too many problems if he expands his business to nearly double the size it is now. my main point to you today is that we as neighbors first said
what do we want? 20 feet. no more. who wouldn't, right? but then we got serious. we have a number of successful rational neighbors. we didn't want the lawyers to win out on this with their fees and we didn't want to duke it out. so we wanted to negotiate. so what we did is we came up with a consensus and came up with a few plans which represented to you here and it still gives them three floors to live. they're one family. to live and work and run their family business. please see our design as an offering for what it is, a true compromise that fits well into the neighborhood and ample space for this family and their business. please don't approve an eyesore that 90% of tourists in san francisco will see, and i'd also like to just ask those neighbors not employees of the company, but neighbors who are against it, can you raise your hands and raise your signs? great. thank you very much. vice president wu: thank you. next speaker. >> hello. thanks for hearing me. my name is greg holtzman, i live on the project at 834 north
point. i'd like to address the rather clever way the storage is being depicted so the dwper can in a wayside step what might be a substantial parking requirement. from the plan as shown, we believe that the city planners may not be completely aware of the actual operation and how the space utilized for inventory or storage and bicycles and go cart is really disguised retail space. it is actually readily available for rental cars, which is the designated business of the developer. if you account the storage space as retail, there's no doubt that a parking requirement would be reality and the project would need to be completely rethought. there will be other neighbors talking about how hard it is already for them to find parking, not to mention their guests. for what it's worth, i've been a small business owner operating in the city of san francisco for over 35 years. i found that san francisco renaissance painting. i got involved in organic
farming, i started a local business here. part of the reason i'm telling you this is to establish my credibility as a business person. how many more rentals can this business make at this location if they doubled their size? how much more noise and how much more polluted what our neighborhood be? if they are not going to double their activity, then maybe they can understand a more scaled- down project which is all we have been asking for repeatedly, the gentlemen that stood up here earlier and said he was at those meetings, i never saw him before. one other point i feel compelled to speak about is not speaking out about where the development occurred. they built baneful lot project just like this one. the result is a tremendous loss of sunlight that we used to enjoy it when i moved into my
home in 1985. this would do a lot more damage to our neighborhood. this is right on their yard. this is right next door to their property. please ask the developer to reconsider the hardship they are imposing and try to imagine that all businesses scale down when we move -- when they moved to san francisco. that is the one of the ways that we preserve our city. thank you. >> hello, sorry. i live on north point street and i came here to represent the actual neighbors that live in the neighborhood. this is a community that i believe everyone thinks is so commercial but it is not. it has families and people who love and care about the neighborhood and the area that we live then. i am raising my children there and it matters to me a lot that someone's life, many people's
lives will be affected by a development like this. this really affects everyone and the fact that somebody's quality of life, and for me that is really important, not only the police and and everything, but the parking, etc. and the fact that we rarely get much like there to begin with. to actually impact someone and their family for not having some light all day long for me is a huge thing. this affects someone's family and children and it is important to look at this from the aspect that this is not just a commercial area, this is a wonderful aquatics park and a neighborhood and the neighborhood is the best part about it. if you don't take care of the neighbors, then it will just be over run. we have a lot of vandalism
anyway. it would be overrun by pollution and vandalism and if you don't let the neighbors be happy there, then you are looking at a lot of people moving out of the area, which is what we want. -- which is not what we want. >> i am the director of human- resources for blazing saddles and i would like to tell you about our employment practices. this is about to get exciting. during the peak of our busy season, we employ up to 100 full-time employees. over 85% of our employee base lives in san francisco. most of them are renters and use public transportation. they must spend their wages in san francisco restaurants and bars. our employees enjoy many benefits including the highest wages in the industry and a starting pay rate over
minimum wage. we also offer a 401k. we have a very high retention rate. over 50% of our employees have been with us for over a year. we have a strong culture of development and most of our supervisors and managers have been promoted from within. we are a very good employe year. we hire locally and we pay well. we offer excellent benefits that had many long-term employees. we're the kind of business that is great for san francisco. we're looking forward to growing our business but we can only do this if we have the resources and infrastructure for additional staff. i strongly support this project. thank you. >> thank you. >> hello. i have lived in the neighborhood for 32 years.
i have raised my daughter in the neighborhood also. we are lucky to have an aquatic park right at our doorstep, there is lots of fresh air and a green space. i a seat good neighbors and friends on both side of this fence but these are very special people. all of their employees, i run into them in restaurants and in the neighborhood and most of them are young kids. they are really a unique group of people. someone i would like to see in my neighborhood and i would like to see them come and live in our neighborhood. i have looked at the renderings of the building and seeing everything and i would not agree to come until i saw it all. i think we all have to be responsible to our neighborhood. i look forward to you approving this and having them as neighbors. thank you. >> thank you.
>> hello. i was hired to help grow the business. the approval of this would help us to continue to grow blazing saddles and all of the associated benefits to the city, the employees that was just discussed, as well as local residents, with continued neighborhoods enhancements. one other important stipulation is the noise and pollution of this it car which is not our primary business and a very small percentage of what we do at a blazing saddles. this needs to be taken into account when the local residents were taken into account. thank you. >> thank you. next speaker. >> i have been involved for the
past 12 years. i am in support of this project. you can go to any of their locations and see how they do business and see that they are an outstanding citizens and they care about their people and anything they are involved in, they can be around anything they care and they do the research. i am in favor and i look forward to it happening. >> thank you. >> i live on north point and i moved up here because i fell in love with the character of the neighborhood and i love the way it feels. my concern is for my neighbors, the affect on light and air but also the development is inconsistent with the neighborhood context in the
style that is primarily upscale and this is able to be achieved where we can have a building that fits into the profile and feels like it is a more natural part of the neighborhood. that is possible to achieve. that is my feeling on that. >> thank you. >> i am a board member of the aquatic park neighbors and i speak on the development proposal. this is a neighborhood membership organization. the proposal is within the letter of the law. however, this is not within the good neighbor category and this is not fit within the neighborhood.
there are many neighbors here today, you can recognize them by the sign and they oppose the project as proposed. there are other people here and it appears supporting the project that we don't recognize in the neighborhood. the building a significantly higher than the surrounding buildings. also expected are the two-stroke go-karts that you see around town. they are noisy and obnoxious fumes and an environmental impact report is required to address any expansion or relocation of the existing business. we have suggested that we limit
the building to 25 feet with 35 feet in the back. with these changes, we can support this development and considered them a good neighbor. thank you for your time. >> good evening, commissioners. i am a native of san francisco born and raised. i grew up in this neighborhood in north beach, fisherman's wharf. i went to galileo high school. i am a homeowner on bay street. i am here to object to the proposed limit but not object to the building of the project. i would like to recommend that the building height conforms to the building on the right rather than to the left.
raising the height limit would like to see the character and charm that has happened over the past decades. i hope that you will consider for the neighbors light and the air for this project and to lower it and maybe we can compromise and everyone can be happy. >> thank you. >> good evening. i represent a local business on the neighboring property. we have been working with sears for quite a number of years and as a local merchant, it is important for us to continue to develop the area of fisherman's wharf to beautify the neighborhood and to welcome visitors and support the neighborhoods that live in the community as well. as you